What began as a single shopping day following Thanksgiving Thursday, has turned into a shopping marathon that can begin shortly after the traditional feast ends and last through the following week.
CREDIT: Shutterstock: Kenishirotie
Myths have grown up around the annual event that could lead you astray. The term Black Friday was adopted by retailers to signal a shift from losing money to a season of profitability from accounting's "in the black."
To become profitable by the end of the year, retailers must sell plenty of high-profit merchandise and get rid of old inventory. That's why most of the Black Friday deals are on older models of devices and off-brands.
Here's how to avoid the top 5 Black Friday traps and find the best deals this holiday season.
The Doorbuster Trap
"Unfortunately many "doorbusters" are exceptionally low-priced items meant to generate buzz and entice shoppers in-store," according to DealNews, a site that tracks Black Friday deals. Before you run out the door without your pumpkin pie, read the fine print along with the advertised special. Most likely you'll see doorbusters in very limited supply.
For instance, Best Buy's Black Friday circular's headlining doorbuster is a 40-inch Toshiba 1080p widescreen HDTV for $180, nearly 60 percent off the regular price. Best Buy will start handing out tickets two hours before doors open at midnight —technically Friday, but it's really Thursday night. Last year's HDTV deal was limited to 10 units per store.
Further, retailers are counting on you not leaving their store empty-handed after making the effort to get there. It's always wise to price check Black Friday sale items. Smartphone apps such as RedLaser for iPhone, Android and Windows can make quick work of determining whether you're really getting a good deal.
[READ MORE: How Much Money Can You Save with Tech Deal Sites? ]
The Apple Trap
Many people think they have to visit an Apple Store to get a deal on an Apple product. In fact, all of Apple's Black Friday sale prices will be available online with free shipping sitewide, according to DealNews. Further, Apple has never been known for significant Black Friday savings. Shoppers should check retail sites Amazon, Mac Connection and MacMall for better offers.
But no one should expect price cuts on Apple's newly released products such as the iPad mini and iPad 4. However, DealNews has predicted that smaller chains such as Fry's Electronics will offer $100 discount on the iPad 2 (in-store pick-up only), which would make the larger tablet cheaper than the new mini by about $30.
The Price-Matching Trap
Target recently announced they would match prices offered by online retailers, including Amazon, Walmart.com and BestBuy.com, during the holiday season. Target's holiday price matching began Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 16. Customers can show the current online price using a mobile device, along with the original receipt to receive the difference. However, customers may not have noticed the fine print on Target's website that Nov. 23-26 are excluded from price matching — Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Further, Target lists a slew of other exclusions, including Amazon's Daily Deals , Lightning Deals, and Gold Box Deals, so read the terms carefully before pursuing a refund.
Although price-matching is generally associated with the big vendors that actually sell things, PayPal is looking to get in on the game. Through the end of December, if you use PayPal to buy an item, and you then see it for less within 30 days, PayPal will credit you the difference. However, like Target, the offer does not extend to Black Friday sales — the lesser price must be offered outside of the Black Friday window.
The I-Can-Return-It Trap
You may be familiar with a store's return policy, but it can change over the holiday shopping period. Some stores shorten their return window. This information may be included in Black Friday ads, but if it isn't, check with store personnel before you buy.
Last year Walmart limited holiday returns of electronics to 15 days, compared to other purchases that had a 90-day window. Thankfully, Walmart didn't start the return clock until Dec. 26, so gift recipients had an opportunity to return an unwanted gift.
Always ask for a gift receipt and include it with your package, so that your recipient can receive a full credit if the gift is exchanged.
The Cyber Monday Trap
Cyber Monday is the catchy name that designates the Monday after Thanksgiving as the day for online shopping. However, there's no reason to wait until Monday and delaying could cost you a deal if supplies run out. Some of the best Black Friday deals will expire or sell out before 10 a.m. ET on Friday, so you may want to set your alarm.
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